When I first cued up Enders Door, the third full-length album by North Carolina symphonic black/death metal outfit Rapheumets Well, I was blown away by how well put together it was. Symphonic strings and choirs merged with searing riffs and blast beats. Soprano female vocals wove in and out of death growls. Rapheumets Well is truly symphonic, but also has a fierce metal bite. If I was to compare them to other bands, they have the speed and blistering technicality of Fleshgod Apocalypse, with the atmosphere and symphonic grandeur of (recent) Shade Empire. Plus, a bit like Shade Empire on their 2013 album Omega Arcane, Rapheumets Well has an epic tale to tell about beings from space. Except theirs is mega-epic.
Starting from 2014’s Dimensions and continuing with The Exile, released in 2016, and now Enders Door, Rapheumet’s Well has developed the story of the universe, or rather multiverse, of Sovael, where ultra-powerful beings travel between worlds and dimensions. (The band’s name refers to one of these beings – Rapheumet is “the master of portals and inter-dimensional travel,” and “Well” refers to gravity wells, which are “a catalyst of change and gateways between the cosmic plains.”) Combining science fiction with the larger-than-life proportions of mythic storytelling, Enders Door tells the story of the being Eryos, who goes to an uncharted planet searching for his brother, but finds instead a mysterious species called the Dreth and an interdimensional gateway to the Ender. (I’m not sure who or what the Ender is, but sounds like bad news for Eryos.)
So what about the music? Well, Rapheumets Well shows their black/death metal chops right from the start. After a long synth-symphonic intro, the percussion and riffs charge in with pummeling speed and intensity, while the orchestration still floats above, like a grand score for an alien invasion force. A few moments later, the symphonics merge with the electric guitars to create a low, ominous pulse. Rapheumets Well is masterful at combining symphonic elements with the heaviness, brutality and speed of well-executed black/death metal – sometimes juxtaposing high, haunting notes with crushing riffage and growled or screamed vocals, sometimes weaving the synth orchestration into the metal for a textured and dramatic sound, or using it to highlight the melody. And then, unusual for black/death metal, there are soaring guitar solos as well. Adding yet another layer are the soprano vocals, reminiscent of Liv Kristine at times with their ethereality. Every song is like a little movie soundtrack, building up drama and tension, with some more introspective or emotional moments with flowing melodies and clean vocals, and plenty of action in the form of thundering riffs and low growls. In the middle of the album is a softer song, “Prisoner of the Rift,” with acoustic guitars and clean vocals with vibes of Ayreon’s 01011001. The only problem with these mini-soundtracks is that for the most part, I don’t know what’s going on. The music video for the title track, “Enders Door,” really brings that song to life (the plot synopsis in the description helps a lot too). There is also a companion graphic novel available on the band’s merch site, which would probably provide great context for the music.
If you like some symphony with your heaviness or a side of science fiction with your metal, then you need to give Enders Door by Rapheumets Well a listen. I could easily see this being one of the top symphonic black/death metal albums this year.